In this post, I talk about how my focus on value – by using the value first mindset – helped me to go from Idea to Shipping in under 30 hours. I also provide clear and actionable examples on how to do this for yourself.
On the 4th of May 2020, a sunny day in The Netherlands, my first product launch of 2020 (and in the past few years, to be exact) was a fact: Washem.
What’s A Washem?
Washem is a free mobile application built in Xamarin that shows video sequences during each washing step in the instructions as provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) along with a countdown timer so kids (and adults) can follow along while washing, and see when they’re done.
I created the Washem because I wanted to teach my kids how to wash their hands conform to the World Health Organisation’s washing instructions, which are more complex than you’d imagine (especially for 7-year-old kids).
Hand washing proved to be not quite so trivial during the (Corona) pandemic crisis. And since building an app was within my skill-set, I wanted to help by building something scoped that I already had aquired the skills and experience for during my career.
But the functionality of the app isn’t what I wanted to celebrate in this milestone. Neither is my career.
Focus On Providing Value First
What I DO want to tell you about is the fact that I worked on creating Washem by following my own advice. That’s the source that many makers often ignore and/or overlook.
The specific type of advice is something I actually wrote quite the articles about on Shipharder.com:
Focus. On. Value. First.
I’m proud that that’s exactly what I did with Washem.
How Did A #valuefirst Mindset Help Me?
By keeping myself focussed on creating value, I keep moving to the target instead of making turns, running in circles, and jumping through hoops that aren’t helping me to move forward.
With every step of the way I kept that main question in the back of my head: how can I provide the value that the application is a vessel for (not the end goal). By considering if my actions moved me towards that goal (or steered me away from that same goal) I kept my pace high and didn’t get distracted.
My goal, in one line, was simple: Shipping a solution that helps kids (and adults) to wash their hands better to increase their safety during the Corona pandemic.
Side-note: as stated by many instances around the world, keeping your hands disinfected properly will be something that remains in the new “1.5 meter society” that we are currently living in.
What I did To Keep My Focus On The Value
The following is a list of things that I did to keep focussed and not stray from my goal to create and ship something in a short amount of time, and how it helped me:
- I thought about one thing first, every step of the creation process: how I can make the users benefit the most from my solution? As my kids washed their hands too short and didn’t touch every spot, I looked for the proper way to do it and “discovered” the WHO instructions.
- In order to verify my assumptions that video footage would help kids understand how to wash their hands, I showed them hand washing footage and verified that they got it faster using a visual example on how to do it
- I drafted out an absolute minimalistic version with wireframes, a screen flow, and some logic notes, to define the solution’s form
- I set up my project and used technology, tools & services that I know well to improve speed and focus on creating something to provide value instead of slowing myself down as I need to learn new stuff. For me, that was Draw.IO for the screen flow and wireframes, C# and Xamarin(.Forms) to create the cross-platform mobile solution, Carrd.co to setup Washem’s landing page nice and easy within a few hours
- I didn’t focus on details and the overall prettiness: I first had to create a functional skeleton that can walk to the finish
- I kept time on my mind at all times (pun intended). I did this on three levels: by keeping a tight deadline & logging the invested time (for insights in the progress and future reference)
It feels good to have gone from idea to submission in under 27 hours (alongside creating a landing page, account setup, etc.).
And even the 40-ish hours (total!) that I spent to get the Android version in the Google Play Store was a nice score.
I didn’t get a huge pile of users from the solution. It was a free app (without ads) so money really wasn’t the goal either.
What matters to me is the fact that my kids now know how to disinfect their hands properly. And that I proved that by focussing on value and keeping that as my compass, I can ship a product and be able to provide value in a very short period (weeks, instead of months or years).
It spared me from a lot of the usual issues that many makers face:
– distracted by other (better?) ideas?
– being blinded by that inner voice that wants you to create and makes you think “I know that it works, I’ll just build it”
– procrastinating because the idea is too huge, setbacks occur or because you don’t see progress fast enough
– fear of public opinion; by focussing on the value for the intended users, I could focus on seeing if it provided value for them purely
There’s More To it Then Focus On Value
There’s more needed then focusing on value to keep your aim steady and any distractions that may hunt makers all over the world at bay.
Will focussing on value alone get me to create a product that will be a “huge hit” and get much revenue on itself? No. I am not so blinded that this is the entire answer.
But it DOES help to create functional pivot versions of an idea, shorten the development cycle, and keep distractions away.
This enables you to build and ship products in a week’s worth of time and try to see if your idea has any traction.
If the value is provided to more people than the small (sub)set that you’ve been looking at (and hopefully, talked to & coöperated with).
The art of marketing, product positioning, and directing a solution to the masses that will embrace it is another part of the puzzle that leads to viable products.
And it is one that relies heavily on the execution capability of shipping products that provide value in a short cycle.
The Iteration Cycle
The Iteration Cycle is one that many makers — from designers to hardware creators, and from coders to artists — have learned and taken by heart for many years:
There is nothing new about the Iteration Cycle, as it’s been used in all sorts of frameworks, like Rapid Application Development, Agile Software Development, and many more.
I have noted and used my own definition for the steps in the Iteration Cycle for quite some time now. The steps as I define them, sound not as abstract, and more recognizable to me:
Think. Build. Learn. Adapt. Repeat.
The Learn part of the cycle relies heavily on shipping product as there’s no better test to see if your product provides value than shipping it and letting people test it out.
In order to minimize the effort that you’ll need to put in at the Adapt step, focussing on #valuefirst helps very much as it keeps the Build step mean and lean, and forces you during the Think step to look at what creates the most value (and not the prettiest, fanciest, technical solution).
If nothing, the short amount of time you will need to build and ship a value focussed version will spare you time and effort that you can use to create other versions that you can pivot, marking the Repeat step of the Iteration Cycle.
In the end, people rather have a solution that provides them with (or helps them towards) the desired results than a fancy solution that hinders them while trying to get results.
Here are the key takeaways that I hope you take along from this article:
- By looking at value first you focus on what your solution will bring instead of what the solution will be
- The value first mindset helps to keep distractions away, and prevents you from spending time on aspects that don’t matter for version 1.0
- Focussing on value helps to get you to ship with a better focus but it isn’t the total solution; marketing, sales, product propositioning and such all are needed to get your product out to the masses
- A development cycle with the sharpened focus on value helps to let you build multiple versions over a shorter amount of time.
- There is no substitute to a real paying user’s feedback to find out if your product is viable
Let me know your thoughts on this, I’m curious to learn if this relates to you as a maker as much as it did with me.
Code Hard, Ship Harder ?
This post is also published on Medium